Schizophrenic artists appear throughout history. The high intelligence and creativity that often accompany mental disorders can produce unique works of art, and the combination of art and schizophrenia can give art lovers a chance to explore interpretations of reality rarely experienced.
Schizophrenic Art vs. Depressive or Bipolar Art
Artists with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or clinical depression have produced many famous works. In some cases, it’s unclear which disorder affected the artist. Although Vincent van Gogh may have produced bipolar art, some people believe he was an artist who struggled with schizophrenia.
Depressive art and bipolar art tend to focus on emotions and feelings, while schizophrenic art is often emotionally distant and intellectual. Bipolar artists sometimes report a drop in creativity when their disorder is treated, but medication doesn’t appear to affect schizophrenic artists’ creativity.
“Art Brut” and Schizophrenic Artists
In 1945, French artist Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985) created the term “Art Brut,” or Raw Art, to describe art produced without connections or influences from culture or established art styles. Dubuffet was greatly influenced by schizophrenic artists, especially Adolf Wolfe and Heinrich Auton Muller. Both were schizophrenic artists that spent most of their lives in mental health institutions.
When Dubuffet created the Collection de l’Art Brut, a sizable collection of artwork he felt exemplified Raw Art, over half of the pieces were created by schizophrenic artists.
Ralph Albert Blakelock and Schizophrenic Art
Ralph Albert Blakelock (1847-1919) was an American artist well-known for his Western landscapes. Blakelock, who suffered from mental disorders throughout his life, was hospitalized in 1899 with a condition believed to have been schizophrenia. He continued to paint throughout his hospitalization, stopping only upon his release in 1916. Blakelock’s works are regarded as fine examples of schizophrenic art, with bold use of light, dark silhouettes and remarkable moonlight effects.
Art and Schizophrenia: Painters, Writers and Mathematicians
While schizophrenia often prevents people from reaching their full potential, some schizophrenic artists have produced ground-breaking work. Edgar Allan Poe’s grim, haunting tales may be a fine example of schizophrenic art. People with schizophrenia have also made contributions to science; mathematician John Nash is perhaps the most notable.
Some argue that the genetics responsible for schizophrenia are closely connected to creativity. Although they didn’t suffer from schizophrenia, both Albert Einstein and James Joyce fathered children who eventually developed the disorder.
Art and Schizophrenia Today
Many groups dedicated to art and schizophrenia in the modern art community can help schizophrenic artists find both audiences and markets for their work. Art is often used as therapy for people suffering from schizophrenia. Perhaps the ability to visually express themselves allows schizophrenic artists to share their perceptions of reality with others.
Fauci, A., Braunwald, E., Isselbacher, K., Wilson, J., Martin, J., …